When the Easter Rising occurred on April 24, 1916, Connolly was Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and as the Dublin Brigade had the most substantial role in the rising, he was de facto Commander in Chief. Following the surrender, he said to other prisoners: 'Don't worry. Those of us that signed the proclamation will be shot. But the rest of you will be set free.' Connolly was not actually held in jail, but at Dublin Castle - the British centre of Administration in Ireland at the time. He was taken to Royal Hospital Kilmainham, across the road from the jail and then taken to the jail to be executed by the British. Visited by his wife, and asking about public opinion, he commented 'They all forget that I am an Irishman'. He confessed his sins, said to be his first religious act since marriage.
He was so badly injured from the fighting (a doctor had already said he had no more than a day or two to live, but the execution order was still given) that he was unable to stand before the firing squad. His absolution and last rites were administered by a Capuchin, Father Aloysius. Asked to pray for the soldiers about to shoot him, he said: 'I will say a prayer for all men who do their duty according to their lights'.
Instead of being marched to the same spot where the others had been executed, at the far end of the execution yard, he was tied to a chair and then shot. The executions were not well received, even throughout Britain, and were drawing unwanted attention from the United States, which the British Government were trying to lure into the war in Europe. There was uproar on both sides of the Atlantic when it became known that a dying man had been tied to a chair and killed. Asquith, the British PM, then ordered that no more executions were to take place; an exception being that of Roger Casement as he had not yet been tried.
James Connolly was survived by his wife and several children, one of whom - Nora Connolly O'Brien - became an influential writer and campaigner within the Republican movement as an adult.